Responsible for the sales of over 40 million records worldwide, we linked up with platinum-selling hit producer and G-Unit co-founder Sha Money XL to talk about a wide array of topics from his debut album “Chain On The Bike”, Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, his start in the music business with the help of L.A. Reid and Jam Master Jay, working with 50 Cent and G-Unit to introducing Big K.R.I.T. and 2 Chainz to the masses.
Let’s just hop right into this. You titled your debut album “Chain On The Bike.” Conceptually, what does that title mean to you?
Sha Money XL: So basically you’ve got a bike and I grew up riding a lot of bikes, doing tricks and wheelies and all of that. And you know, the whole function of a bike is that chain. When that chain popped, you can’t do nothing, you can’t move with that bike. That bike had the wheels, the steering and everything, but it needed that chain on the bike to move. So I took that analogy and I was given that nickname by 50 Cent when we were getting started. I’m moving in a direction where I’m not just making the beats, I’m taking this shit out to the media.
So he called me the “Chain On The Bike” because I kept it moving. So that always stuck on me. I always wanted to keep that whole concept of finding these raw dope talents from every hood and being able to give them the opportunity to showcase and get this money and get this success and make some good music. You know what I mean? Fill the airwaves with some good music out here. And so that whole concept derived from since back then and this is just me executing it now.
I know you have a few high profile appearances on there like Styles P and an unreleased verse from the late great Prodigy. But before I get into that, how did you kind of assemble the roster that’s appearing on this record? I noticed a lot of newcomers, a lot of underground talent.
Sha Money XL: As a producer, I love making music. I’ve always been blessed to have other jobs as managers, the artists, and also the record labels, but my main love is production. So I’ve been sitting here with this new equipment, MPC Renaissance, making more beats than I’ve ever made my whole career. So right now, I’m in the zone creating. So I’m finding talent that’s always hitting me up or someone put me on to someone and I’ll meet with them and then I’ll get into sessions. This one kid like Sandy Benjamin from Ohio… all of a sudden, in two days, we got like six songs and I’m like, ‘Yo, this kid is super talented.’
This reminds me of when I was working with 50 or someone that really wants to work, where they just in the studio really cutting records. So as that progressed, I worked with him and did that.
I worked with Tedy Andreas to the point where I became such a fan. I signed him and I help fund his records, get his records out there. He raps, he produces, he’s really dope. And then, somebody else puts me on to Chubbs The Dreamer. And all of a sudden I’m like, ‘Yo, this kid is from jail, he’s fire.’
I know you run a company named Teamwork Music. So some of these solo acts, you will be kind of streaming through this venture, is that kind of the big plan?
Sha Money XL: Teamwork Music was created because I worked at the labels and I said I’m going to take a break from that. I want to just break these artists and develop them. So either way, we’re putting out mixtapes and we’re putting out projects so why not me, just create this indie label?! Even if these guys end up taking major deals, we’ve got to get this ball rolling. We gotta break in this market.
So I’m putting out records that we work on, getting them on the road, getting them on these charts, build the whole artist development that is missing in the industry that exists here at Teamwork Music.
I applaud you for that because that is definitely a huge missing component. The whole artist development thing.
Sha Money XL: If you just throw a new artist out by himself with a mixtape, you’re not going to get a website to post it because websites, they don’t post new artists unless there’s something happening. So these guys going for years, if they’re not doing the right thing, they have just been down the wrong path, but the talent is on an exceptional level. I think they need to be heard and I’m just giving this light.
I wish there was more people in your position that kind of give back. Now, back to the project itself, “Chain On The Bike Vol. 1.” It also features Prodigy on the track “Divine Time,” who we lost a couple of years back. I know you have a history with Mobb Deep, how did this verse come about?
Sha Money XL: My history with Prodigy dates back to him being the first rapper to ever come to my house. We are both from Queens and he has a history of Long Island. I always had a good relationship with Prodigy to the point when he signed with G-Unit. We started building a stronger relationship and spending more time. And then, I moved to California and one time he was out there and we cut some records and we did a record for Slim The Mobster that day but people never even heard that joint yet.
So I’m sitting here and I’m playing music and it was that moment when I had that record and I just knew that all I had to do is just revamp it a little bit. And that’s what I did and put the actual instruments and just revamped the drums and all that just came with it.
For those that don’t know, let’s kind of retrace your history in this industry. When did it kind of first begin for you?
Sha Money XL: My journey first began when I signed up, when I was in college, to be an intern at Def Jam. That’s where my career began because from there I met Jam Master Jay and everything took off from the time I met him.
Coming up, who were some of your influences? I know you are both a DJ, producer, and even a songwriter, but who inspired you to do what you do today?
Sha Money XL: So many people inspired me coming up because after working with Jam Master Jay, just seeing Run DMC, being from Hollis, Queens, seeing that whole thing in the 80s, with LL Cool J and then that happening. And then I’m really young at that age. And then more recent guys like A Tribe Called Quest and Onyx, you’re seeing so much Queens influence and you’re like, ‘Yo, this shit is crazy!” And then you start digging into the music and the production.
How do you describe or define the style of music that you actually create and perform yourself?
Sha Money XL: I love 70s music. I love to sample, I love to play live instruments. I went to piano school as a kid, so I know how to play. So if I’m not playing, I’m always having musicians, whether it’s keyboarders or bass, strings, anything real to add texture to music. So it’s a combination of what I learned from people when I was coming up like Nas and DJ Premier. But then when guys like Trackmasters started adding elements and Dr. Dre started adding live instrument elements and Bad Boy, that era that started to come, that kind of influenced me as a producer.
Where does the moniker Sha Money XL originally derive from? How did you come up with that?
Sha Money XL: I was reading these books at the time and it was like, ‘You gotta speak things into existence’ and all these self-help books when I was in my twenties, just really trying to fill my mind up with some different knowledge away from the street.
So my name was already Sha, my attribute was Sha-Self. So my name was Sha and Sha-Self. I took off the Self because a big homie came home from jail, his name was Self and he also made music and I didn’t want my name to be confused with anyone.
And at that time I was so big into the words and I said I’m gonna have a lot of money and be extra large so I put the Money XL on. And that’s how it actually came. And then coincidentally, I would get over 50 Cent who has money in his name and then Lloyd Banks. And then, you know, the whole thing just comes together just without even putting it together.
Well, that’s actually where I was going with the next question. Everyone knows that you were very instrumental in the success of G-Unit Records as the President of the label. How did that situation come to be? Take me through those days and some of your fondest memories.
Sha Money XL: A lot of good memories, man. Like I said, Jam Master Jay introduced me to 50 Cent first. He was signed to Jay and then he moved on and worked with Trackmasters and I was able to go out there and link with them. And when I linked with them, I did the title track to “Power Of A Dollar,” which is the song. I did other records with them that ended up on the “American Gangster” soundtrack and other stuff that we were doing, which ended up being on his mixtapes. He also saw me as someone that was in the industry connected.
So as we went, you know, 50 kept going and he got shot. And while all of that was happening, I started producing for like Beanie Sigel. I did “Tales Of A Hustler” on “The Reason” album. I had shit going on. I made some money, I moved out of the hood and bought a house. And at the time, 50 got shot. He was down for a few months and we was always in touch and I would call, I was at the hospital when he was there. I try to always call to check on him and when he was able to talk again, he called me and I was able to say, ‘Yo son, I’m out the hood, I got a studio in my crib’ and 50 would come work. And then he came here one time, he checked it out and from that day he worked here for like two years straight and we worked every day except for the weekend.
That’s how that whole story kind of panned out. While that was happening, I was still running off to these industry parties, meeting with people and still selling my tracks, doing other shit for like Tragedy Khadafi and you know, Royal Flush, other Queens rappers.
You actually worked pretty regularly all the way up through 2007 and then there was some kind of falling out, correct?
Sha Money XL: Yeah. I was a manager and producer. I had nine jobs, Haitian and Jamaican style, you know, but when those nine jobs start coming with some paychecks, motherfucker started saying, ‘I’m making too much money.’ You know what I’m saying? Shit changed. So, you know, 50 came to terms where he felt like he could do it on his own and he didn’t need me before so he let me go.
So then from there, I guess things kind of came full circle. You said you started as an intern at Def Jam and then you ended up being the Vice President of A&R, correct? Following G-Unit.
Sha Money XL: That’s right.
It’s my understanding that you kind of were responsible for introducing not only Big K.R.I.T., but also bringing 2 Chainz to the masses.
Sha Money XL: That is a fact. Big K.R.I.T. and 2 Chainz. 2 Chainz is always cool with me. Every trip to Atlanta, he will be my dude that I call just doing some real-time. And he was just a real one and I saw his progress. I’ve seen a lot of him, you know, as a hustler. I’ve never seen that in a lot of people here in New York. And I saw that in him.
So when it was time, I put the hat in first like, ‘Yo, we’ve got to sign 2 Chainz right now, this is the one.’ And I caught it early, I caught it right. And I was able to compete with a lot of people. And then we even, you know, he cut Kanye West in and everything, but I did that deal and we got it done! And I’m thankful for that because he did that classic record “”Based On A T.R.U. Story” and we got a good relationship. He’s a legend now!
Most definitely! So you were saying as far as Big K.R.I.T…?
Sha Money XL: Yeah, so for K.R.I.T., you see what I did in New York and then I also went to the South and was able to not just do 2 Chainz. K.R.I.T. stood next to nobody and stood out against everybody. You know what I mean? And this is not about record sales and all that. It’s about the quality of music. So when someone goes back and they actually discovered K.R.I.T. that shit going to mean something.
Absolutely! Your last kind of foray in the business was through Epic Records. So kind of tell me what your day to day was over there?
Sha Money XL: So L.A. Reid was the same one that brought me to Def Jam. And at the time he moved on to Epic. So after my contract expired, he asked me to come over there and I went over there and he made me the Vice President. And when I went there, the first project I started working on was Yo Gotti. And we did “I Am,” which was a classic.
So you just stayed winning from situation to situation. Why don’t you tell me in terms of your longevity, what do you feel the key to your success has been so far?
Sha Money XL: The key to my success is this: I’m a fan of this music. I’ve been buying records since I was 13. I know the credits, I know the A&Rs, I know photographers, I know the engineers. And I know a lot of information that people cared to not know. And, for me, it all matters because when you make an album, you gotta watch how this person used this engineer to make this record sound like that. And if you’re working with an artist that’s looking for a certain sound, how do you give them the right producers? Not the same guy you just call for 50’s album to come do Yo Gotti’s album.
And with Yo Gotti, it was a good experience because he was a real smart, dope rapper that wasn’t just one-sided. He really got a real rap side and then he could make those records that are just go. So it was good for me to experience working with him and him listening to me, getting beats that I was giving to him and then that just kept going.
And so it was like, your legacy still building because we’re still working. We’re not just standing next to these rappers that’s already made and just making ourselves seem like we made because we stood next to them… we’re actually contributing to them. And I see a lot of people just standing next to people and actually looking like they’re doing something, but they’re not actually contributing. And I’m making records with these artists. I’m bringing him J Cole features that he would never took for anything. You know what I’m saying? And doing the beat and not only just A&R but doing the beat now.
Like with Travis Scott, people say someone can’t get nothing out of him. And then I ended up going to L.A. Reid and then learning how to work with someone like him, who I learned was a young genius at the time. I was working with him and seeing why no one could understand him because he was so ahead of his time and he already was there and they didn’t know how to deal with that attitude of someone who already knew he was there.
But I knew how to deal with someone who knew he was already was there because I understand that, you know, the kid was ahead of his time. So that was a good experience for me because that kid was ill in the studio. That was some energetic experience. You know what I mean? And then… Bobby Shmurda!
I hear that Bobby Shmurda is coming home soon. You know anything about this situation?
Sha Money XL: Yeah, I speak to his uncle, so I definitely know he’s coming home soon and he’s in good spirits. His mind is in the right space and that kid, he’s a real one, man, so I expect nothing but the best for him. And God is going to bless that because he did everything right by himself, his peers, everything he could do. So I think he’s on the right path to just having a good life from here on out and just let that be the experience that changed him in the right order.
Now on a more serious note, would it be fair to say that you are happy with the state of Hip-Hop?
Sha Money XL: No, I’m very unhappy. This shit needs some balance. I mean, I’m happy where it’s going but it’s really unbalanced. Now, it’s starting to get some more shit that I could really listen to and exactly feel good about listening to it instead of being forced to listen to this shit and accept this shit because some shit is forced on us and it’s not good.
Looking ahead, let’s say 5 or 10 years down the line, where do you see yourself?
Sha Money XL: Ten years down the line I will be on an island, a farmer, enjoying the earth, you know, still running my bakery business and still loving music, probably deejaying on the island. But I don’t think I’ll be in the music business at that point. I’m going to just be enjoying my kids and just the rural lifestyle and just enjoying the earth.
As for the immediate future, what’s next for you? I know the “Chain On The Bike Vol. 1” is out now. Like I said earlier, it’s a great record! What kind of plans are going to follow on the heels? Maybe anything coming up with Teamwork Music?
Sha Money XL: Tedy Andreas is going to drop a single and an EP in the next few months and we’re going to get started with Chubbs The Dreamer. And Sandy Benjamin, he’s going to drop a project. I did a few joints on there. He produced on there. He’s really dope! I’m excited about him. And from there, we’re going to keep building and then probably at the end of the year, I’ll give you part two of “Chain Of The Bike” because I’m committed to giving this music and balancing out the soundscapes so I wanna get this music out here.